Photo: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington

Norwegian energy companies abroad. Expanding the anthropological understanding of corporate social responsibility.

When Norwegian energy companies invest abroad - in projects that often involve contested environmental and social issues - they relate to standards for corporate social responsibility (CSR). Recent anthropological work on CSR has mainly focused on privately owned companies and how they, particularly within the energy sector, increasingly bypass the state. In contrast, the largest Norwegian energy companies are wholly or partly state owned.

 If we conceive CSR to articulate typical neoliberal governance techniques, does it make a difference whether the corporate ethics of a company is framed in relation to a corporatist state and based in a 'Nordic model of CSR'? This project will explore this question by focusing on the CSR work of three Norwegian energy companies, representing varying ownership models: Statkraft, Statoil and Det Norske Oljeselskap. We ask how CSR policies are shaped by the following factors: state ownership, the Nordic corporate model for company-state-society interaction, the globalized CSR discourse, resistance and negotiation in country of operation, and the materiality of energy and environment..  

 Aiming to track empirically the production, circulation, reformulation and outcomes of CSR policy and practice, case studies will follow the whole chain in the CSR process and focus on company headquarters (in Oslo as well as in London) , the companies' country offices, as well as the project sites and affected local communities in Canada, Greenland, Tanzania, Turkey, Indonesia and Kurdistan-Iraq.

 The project will draw together researchers in Norway and Britain. We seek full funding from NFR for two of the case studies, including a PhD position, and support for fieldwork for two case studies. In addition we will include three ongoing PhD projects. The project is innovative in bringing all these case studies under one umbrella, providing synergy effects that will enable us to make a substantial contribution  to the anthropological study of CSR.